Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Tuesday, August 3, 2021, 2:43 PM

The Federal Bureau of Investigation used photos of young, female staff in order to “entice sexual predators” in sting operations, writes the Washington Post. A report from the Justice Department’s inspector general detailed how staff photos were presented as belonging to young children and sex workers, though the female office staff were not authorized undercover or “online covert employees.” Faces in the pictures were blurred and the women were clothed, but the pictures could be shared and downloaded, which the inspector general believes could put staff in danger. The FBI agent under investigation for using the photographs had not obtained written permission to do so and urged office staff to conceal his activities.

Missing Belarusian activist, Vitaly Shishov, was found dead on Tuesday in a park near his home in Kyiv, Ukraine, reports the New York Times. Authorities said he was found hanged and that they are investigating the possibility of a “murder masked as a suicide.” Shishov was the director of the Belarusian House, based in Ukraine, which assisted those escaping political repression following protests last year. Colleagues of Shishov, who fled to Ukraine last year, blamed Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus for his death and expressed that he believed he was being followed and that he had been warned of potential threats on his life by supporters back in Belarus. 

Krystina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian Olympic sprinter, says she would have faced repercussions for criticizing the management of the Belarusian Olympic team upon return to Belarus, according to the Associated Press. In an interview with the Associated Press, Tsimanouskaya claimed officials “made it clear” that some form of punishment awaited her in Belarus and that Belarusian authorities had ordered her return. Belarus’s Olympic committee is headed by Aleksandr Lukashenko’s son, Viktor. Despite attempts to repatriate her, the runner has remained in Japan and plans to fly to Poland, which has offered her a humanitarian visa. 

Afghan General Sami Sadat urged citizens to evacuate the provincial capital Lashkar Gah as soon as possible ahead of an army operation against the Taliban, according to the BBC. At least 40 people have been killed in the city during fighting in the past day as the Taliban have reportedly captured most of the city. The province of Helmand was the centerpiece of the American and British military campaign, and the Taliban’s recent gains are dealing a blow to the Afghan government. General Sadat said his army “would not leave a single Taliban alive” in the upcoming operation. If Lashkar Gah falls, it will be the first provincial capital won by the Taliban since 2016.

The United States has shipped more than 110 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to more than 60 countries, according to the Associated Press. President Biden has promised that the U.S. will be an “arsenal of vaccines” for the world and made a pledged to ship 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 100 low-income countries by June 2022. The donated doses came from excess domestic stock as the rate of vaccination in the U.S. slows due to vaccine hesitancy. The White House insists that, unlike Russia and China, it is not using the donations as a tool for geopolitical leverage.

Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, signaled on Tuesday that he would seek to negotiate certain sticking points with the United States and other Western nations, but would not link the country’s destiny to “the will of foreigners,” reports Al Jazeera. Raisi suggested that he would work to see U.S. sanctions on Iran lifted and negotiate the revival of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the U.S. withdrew from in 2018. The country’s new president received an official endorsement from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and will be formally inaugurated on Thursday, days after the U.S., United Kingdom and Israel accused Iran of a drone attack on an oil tanker that killed two. 

Spanish and Croatian firefighting planes have joined the effort to combat nine wildfires blazing in Turkey, according to Reuters. They joined planes from Russia, Iran, Ukraine and Azerbaijan to battle the blazes after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan asked for European support in the effort. The aid comes as Erdogan has faced sharp criticism for depleting the country’s firefighting resources over the past several years. The leader of the main opposition party Kemal Kilicdaroglu said, “To say it frankly, Turkey is not being managed. The government of the (presidential) palace has rendered our state incapable.” Wildfires have killed at least eight people and forced thousands to evacuate in the past week.

China issued new guidelines requiring up to 100 percent local content of hundreds of items purchased by state companies, reports Reuters. The guidelines, which were issued in May and obtained by an anonymous U.S. official, bar Chinese hospitals, companies and other state-owned buyers from importing foreign goods for some items. The content requirements vary between 25 and 100 percent local pieces for 315 items including medical equipment and tools used for animal husbandry. These new standards, not released publicly in Beijing, add to concerns among U.S. lawmakers about China’s increasing lack of transparency on trade issues.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Sue Gordon, former principal deputy director at the Office of the Director ofNational Intelligence, and John McLaughlin, former acting director of the CIA, talk to Lawfare COO David Priess about intelligence during the Trump and Biden administrations.

Perri Adams, Dave Aitel, George Perkovich and JD Work considered the future of responsible cyber offensive operations.

Dayna Zolle explained why President Trump cannot escape liability for Jan. 6 by evoking presidential immunity.

Bryce Klehm announced this week’s Lawfare Live which will feature a conversation between Jonathan Schroden, director of Countering Threats and Challenges Program at the CNA Corporation, and Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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